Examination of Witness (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2000
360. Mr Taggart, may I welcome you most warmly.
I apologise for keeping you waiting. It is quite unforgivable.
Perhaps you would not only identify yourself but also tell us
whether you have some general remarks.
(Mr Taggart) Thank you very much, madam
Chairman. My name is Fred Taggart. I am the Director of an initiative
called Regeneration through Heritage which was established originally
by Business in the Community (which is a charity) at the request
of its President, the Prince of Wales, to promote the re-use of
heritage industrial buildings for contemporary purposes and to
assist community groups and not-for-profit partnerships to develop
proposals for specific buildings. We were initially funded by
the Heritage Lottery Fund and we are now part of the Prince of
Wales's Foundation for Architecture.
361. That is very helpful; thank you very much.
You were very critical in your evidence about Sowerby Bridge and
Wakefield and British Waterways' involvement. What were the main
(Mr Taggart) You will have received some documentation
which set out some of the difficulties. I would just like to make
clear that those documents were not written by me, they do not
reflect my personal views; they were written by the two projects.
Indeed, the description of events at Wakefield was prepared by
officials at Wakefield City Council.
362. You are not suggesting that it is not the
view of your organisation?
(Mr Taggart) No, no. We share it. I just want to make
it clear that it is not just my view.
363. Do you think those main difficulties have
now been resolved?
(Mr Taggart) There are a number of difficulties. I
do not think it is necessary to go into details of projects but
there are some general themes which have emerged which probably
have wider applicability and interest. Our criticism of British
Waterways, based on four years now of working with them on these
two projects, is that they lack an appreciation of the value of
the heritage assets which they hold for the nation and their significance
for the communities in which they are located, and have no sense
of urgency about maintaining them or bringing these buildings
back into use. We also feel that British Waterways in these cases
have lacked a strategic vision for the regeneration of the sites
in which their buildings are located. It is quite evident that
their representatives have no clear objectives for the regeneration
of both sites and therefore their position is constantly changing.
In particular they fail to understand that the Barbara Hepworth
Gallery which is proposed for Wakefield, is the catalyst to create
a whole new cultural quarter for the city which will change the
image of the city and lead the regeneration of the city. As such
it is absolutely critical for the future development of Wakefield.
Generally we feel that they do not appreciate the wider public
benefits of the schemes that we are involved with. We certainly
have identified what we feel are difficulties within British Waterways'
internal structures. It is hard for me to comment because I have
not studied it in detail, but from our contact there does appear
to be an overlap between the commercial section, which deals with
the property portfolio, and the operation section which deals
with running the waterways. The operations section represents
British Waterways on the Wakefield project and we have surveying
and valuation staff representing them at the Sowerby Bridge project.
With all due respect to the professional competence of those individuals
in their jobs, our conclusion is that they have failed to see
the big regeneration picture and therefore their agenda is not
the agenda of the partnership as a whole. We do have a very strong
criticism to make of British Waterways' failure to participate
in the partnership approach which we know is a very high priority
for the Government. The Government wants to see regeneration led
by partnerships. Partnerships do exist between British Waterways
and property developers. We are talking about wider partnerships
which involve the local community, local business interests, local
organisations, and those are a slightly different animal. We do
feel that in both cases British Waterways is not committed to
the partnership approach, does not sign up for the objectives
and retains a right of veto throughout. That makes it very difficult
to progress schemes. As you will know from my evidence, we have
great concerns about what we perceive to be a lack of management
control of their officers at the local level. We have not been
happy with the way some things have been dealt with.
364. I think we have understood that, Mr Taggart.
(Mr Taggart) But we have been unable to have that
matter addressed by British Waterways' senior management. We have
sought meetings with the Chief Executive and the Chairman which
were refused. For partnerships, which are significantly representative
bodies including local authorities and major players who have
invested and indeed secured substantial amounts of money for both
projects, when they are not happy I do not think it is an adequate
response to refer them back to the people who are basically the
people who the partnerships feel are not doing the necessary job.
365. Do you think that is indicative of the
sort of problem throughout the organisation? It is not just a
local difficulty? You feel that this is indicative of the sort
of problem you have faced elsewhere?
(Mr Taggart) I think that would be a very sweeping
statement for me to make. I have only really had extensive experience
of these two projects and I would not make a sweeping statement
366. So you do not have any evidence of the
same kind of problem some of your colleagues having had anywhere
(Mr Taggart) I have not looked for it. I have been
concerned with these two projects. I would say that the criticisms
I have just made do point to systemic dysfunctions in the organisation
so I would not be surprised if we found that other people were
having the same problems.
367. Mr Taggart, you refer to a wider partnership.
Does that include MPs?
(Mr Taggart) No, it does not include MPs.
368. Why not?
(Mr Taggart) The local people felt that they did not
369. Who were the local people who felt that?
(Mr Taggart) The people who were invited to establish
the partnerships, which were by invitation. A list was prepared
in consultation with the local authority of all the local people
who might possibly be involved in that, and that includes local
councillors, it includes civic societies, SRB companies,
370. And they said they did not want MPs involved?
(Mr Taggart) I do not think they considered it and
I think MPs have been involved and have visited the sites and
been shown round.
371. Who were the MPs?
(Mr Taggart) The MP for Sowerby Bridge is Alice Mahon
372. She is not a Wakefield MP.
(Mr Taggart) No, but she is the Member of Parliament
for the Sowerby Bridge project. David Hinchliffe is the Member
of Parliament for Wakefield
373. There are four MPs in Wakefield.
(Mr Taggart) David Hinchliffe is the Member of Parliament
within whose constituency the project sits.
374. Yes, but in your evidence you say this
is a wider district project, not just for the city.
(Mr Taggart) I think I was referring specifically
to the city of Wakefield which is the constituency
375. Is it for the city of Wakefield or the
district of Wakefield?
(Mr Taggart) I think the benefits will accrue to the
376. That is right, and there are four MPs in
the district, so why do you say that MPs were not invited?
(Mr Taggart) I do not think it was a conscious decision
not to invite them. I think it was a matter of establishing a
partnership with the people most directly connected with the site,
and of course the local authority represents the entire district,
and the key chair is the leader of the Council who have been closely
involved in this.
377. Were you interested in inviting MPs, Mr
(Mr Taggart) If I thought that we could get a Member
of Parliament to spare the time to attend all the various meetings
378. Were they invited, Mr Taggart?
(Mr Taggart) They were not invited to be members of
379. That is right, and so how can you say if
they could spend the time to take an interest in this? We are
here now taking an interest in it. I represent a constituency
in Wakefield, sitting on this Committee, and I knew nothing about
this until I got the papers. Do you say that that is proper? You
are criticising British Waterways Board. Let us have some facts,
(Mr Taggart) You certainly can have some facts. This
is not a secret. It has had extensive coverage in the local newspaper,
in the Council's civic publication, it has been the subject of
a Royal visit. It has been on all the media. I am really very
surprised that you do not know anything about it.